Sens captain leading by example

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

LITTLE FALLS, N.J. -- A few hours after working 24:12 of Game 1 against New Jersey, Daniel Alfredsson was the lone Senator to get practice off yesterday morning.

It's not unusual for the 34-year-old Senators captain to be given/take a breather while his teammates are toiling through an on-ice workout. It's probably even a significant factor as to why Alfredsson is playing with so much energy and so effectively this post-season.

But on this day, he truly deserved a rest.

Despite not registering a point while being on the ice for every Ottawa goal in Thursday's 5-4 victory, Alfredsson stood out like the Empire State building on the nearby New York skyline.

"He was certainly our best player," said coach Bryan Murray. "His work ethic, his smarts with the puck, his willingness to backcheck ... he's been like that for awhile.

''Really, that's the example this team needs."

Winger Antoine Vermette expressed the view of all his teammates when he called Alfredsson "a great leader."

Alfredsson, who saw more ice time than 35 of the 36 skaters (all except Wade Redden's 25:33) couldn't recall if he had ever been on the ice for five of his team's goals without registering a goal or an assist.

"But it doesn't really matter, either," said Alfredsson, who inspired his team with a big hit on Richard Matvichuk after the Devils defenceman levelled Dany Heatley -- and seconds before Jason Spezza gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead at 1:30 of the first period.

"I just try to contribute, to do my best. It's a team game and we all have our roles. I try to play my role to the best of my abilities."

ELIAS RETURNS

Meanwhile, the Devils will welcome back their best skater for tonight's Game 2.

Captain Patrik Elias said he'll return to the lineup after missing Game 1 with a flu bug. He led New Jersey in points during the regular season with 69, plus he's also the club's all-time leading playoff scorer with 101 points.

"I feel fine," Elias said. "Obviously I'm a little tired after four days of not skating. But I feel good enough to play now."

Linemate Scott Gomez said getting the Devils' "best guy" back will be a huge boost.


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